Learning Outcome Report gives Queen’s top marks

Conclusions from four-year study reveal increase in cognitive skills among students

Richardson Hall.
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Journal File photo

Results released from a recent longitudinal study on student learning outcomes named Queen’s a national leader among Canadian universities.

The study, conducted by the Office of Provost, aimed to track the progression of student learning outcomes over the duration of four years.

Queen’s researchers began the study in 2013, and traced the development and assessment of complex cognitive skills as part of the Learning Outcomes Assessment Consortium, which is a group of post-secondary schools designed to study students’ academic progress.

The report analyzed students’ skills in critical thinking, problem solving and communication.

The study was partially funded by Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO). Queen’s represents one of nine universities and colleges to make up the HEQCO’S Learning Outcomes Assessment Consortium.

The study surveyed thousands of student volunteers to complete standardized tests, and asked them to share previous exams and assignments to be analyzed.

Skills were drawn from students in disciplines ranging from engineering, science, social science, and humanities.

The study analyzed four main concepts when examining the cognitive skills of students: standardized instruments and surveys, program-wide rubrics used to score student work samples, student and instructor interviews, and data linkage to demographic variables and student grades.

The study also considered the cost of living, participation rate, time commitment, and motivation of students at Queens.

The report said students come in “with high initial levels of critical thinking, problem solving, and written communication skills.” It added the challenge is to “demonstrate how much [Queen’s students] improve over a four-year degree.”

The results from the report reflect favourably on Queen’s students compared to other students at similar institutions. It concluded students’ skills in critical thinking, problem solving, and communication increased over the four-year period.

According to the conclusion of the report, Queen’s is projected to a take on a related project to improve the assessment of learning outcomes in future years.

The new study seeks to create an in-depth understanding of how faculty members at the University foster critical and creative thinking, as well as problem solving, in their course loads.

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